The Rose in Bloom
"There is no lack for finery here, Haleth. I was thinking of another matter." She reached into the closet and withdrew a dress. "The green gown, for my last day in Gondor as a lady of Rohan."
Haleth nodded in agreement and busied herself selecting matching shoes, gloves, hair-jewels, and a cape. "What matter could lie so heavily on a heart fated for bliss?"
"The matter of a mad aunt," Éowyn answered, loosing the laces on her dress. "Speaking of which, I wish to see Ioreth before the feast. Will you fetch her for me? I can dress myself, but I shall want you to help with the hair."
The girl curtsied and Éowyn sighed after she left. Faramir was true and kind, but so much of Gondor's customs and knowledge remained a mystery to her. The divisions between the classes were stricter, and the forms of address and other courtesies were very complex. Even the names often confused Éowyn. In the language of the Riddermark, Haleth was a man's name, but her serving-girl in the Houses of Healing was Haleth, named after a woman-hero of yore. The girl Haleth was still occasionally scandalized by Éowyn's attempts at friendship with her. But the lack that troubled Éowyn the most was that of writing and reading. Whenever Faramir read a scroll, she felt like one of the Pukel men, uncultured and unlearned. And then, of course, there was the matter of the marriage linens.
"You wished to see me, Éowyn?"
Fortunately, old Ioreth had learned to treat her as her fellow. "I did indeed, Ioreth. Come in!"
"You are absolutely beautiful in that gown! Lord Faramir will faint when he sees you!"
"I somehow doubt that," Éowyn answered with a soft laugh. "He has seen me in it twice already and has had no ill effects."
"Ah, but that was not the night before you left to go to your wedding. I do not doubt that he has thought about you and your beauty far more often of late."
"If that is true, then in his imaginations it is not he who is stretched out on a bed but me."
Haleth gasped behind her, and Ioreth laughed heartily. "Go on, lass. I can plait the lady's hair. You have other things to do."
"Yes, mistress. My lady."
"Good night, Haleth."
Ioreth still chuckled to herself as she took up the brush. "That poor girl choked nigh unto death, Éowyn! What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking as a bride and not as a maid."
"Some would say they should be one and the same."
"And so it is held in the Mark. But our customs are different, nonetheless."
Ioreth again bubbled into laughter. "Is it custom for blushing, maiden brides to make ribald jests with their serving-girls? If so, I should like to live there!"
"Nay, I was thinking more of the marriage linen."
"Where did you learn of that?"
"From Faramir's aunt Lady Galenriel."
"But not from the Lord Faramir himself?"
"Nay. He has said nothing of ..."
At Éowyn's hesitation, Ioreth said, "Of your consummation? I should think not! Such talk would only inflame passion, and while the Lord Faramir is honorable, he is still only a man after all and subject to the same...."
"But Ioreth, I do not have... "
"Phsaw." Ioreth dismissed Éowyn's fear with a wave of her hand. "You would not be the first bride who was not a maid, nor the last."
"But I am a maid. I was thrown from a horse, many years ago."
"Yes, it's true the maidenhead can thus be broken, though we have so little dealings with beasts, or rather the women of Gondor do, that it is fairly uncommon here. I forget that the women of Rohan are far more warlike. It is a matter of small consequence, let me assure you."
"Will Faramir see it so?"
"To know that, dear lady, you must ask him. If you are uncomfortable, I can sound him out for you."
"Don't you dare! I would not have him learn such things from another.
"Well if you would have my thoughts, I say he loves you to madness and will care not."
"Galenriel made it out to be a matter of great importance."
Ioreth laughed and shook her head. "So Lady Galenriel finally sunk her teeth into you, did she? Vicious old viper that she is! The Lord Faramir has expressly forbid us to let her see you, or to carry any message from her to you. Though she has not stopped trying to find you for these past six months. She's fearsome, let me tell you! And as one horrid old wife speaking of another, I can say that!"
"You are not horrid, but you do speak the truth about Galenriel. How can I marry into a family so plagued with madness?" Éowyn asked, only half in jest.
"Apparently Lord Faramir has been spared the family curse, saving his love for you of course."
"Let us hope so!"
At the feast, Éowyn quickly found her brother and Faramir, standing near the King's dais with a cloud of courtiers milling about. Most of the women were doting on Éomer King, who seemed uncomfortable with their attentions, yet one stood in close confidence with Faramir, much to Éowyn's irritation. She had the raven hair of the people of Gondor, contrasting the pale blue of her gown, and she was slight in build. Éowyn guessed the woman was not much older than herself, although with the line of Numenor, it was always difficult to judge. As Éowyn approached, her fears were allayed as Faramir immediately left his companion to bow before her and take her by the hand. "Fairest of ladies, you fill my heart with delight."
"I thought I was done with flattery when Gríma was fled."
"You were," Faramir answered, grinning. "Lady Éowyn of Rohan, may I present Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, my cousin and honor guard in the journey ahead."
The princess nodded. "Lady Éowyn, I wish you bliss!"
"Thank you, my lady," Éowyn answered with a nod of her own. "I hope you will be able to wish me so after our week-long ride together."
"I doubt it not!" Lothíriel laughed, and Éowyn delighted in her from that moment on. "Oh! There's the mistress of Lebennin! You must meet her, Lady Éowyn. She is such a merry friend!"
Faramir and Éowyn followed Lothíriel about the hall, greeting the mighty of Gondor and receiving many well wishes. Somewhere in the press, however, Éowyn and Lothíriel discovered that Faramir was no longer with them. With an exasperated sigh, Lothíriel said "Some honor guard I am when already I have lost the bumbling fool! You go to the left and I shall go to the right and together we shall find him."
Éowyn moved around the edge of the crowd, searching for Faramir. When she at last laid eyes on him, she felt her anger flare. A stunning woman in scarlet with a plunging neckline stood possessively close to Faramir. Éowyn fought her way through the crowd, but fortunately Lothíriel arrived first. Over the babble around her, Éowyn could not hear what was said, but Faramir bowed and walked away with Lothíriel, leaving the scarlet lady. Only a moment later, they joined Éowyn. Lothíriel was quite indignant "I am not to blame if you wander off, cousin!"
"I did not wander, I tell you! Galenriel pulled me aside and then Emrahiel joined us. Was I to simply ignore my aunt?"
"You did for six months," Éowyn said.
"And still she caught us in the end." Faramir muttered something under his breath and Éowyn guessed his words were not polite.
"Come, beloved," Éowyn soothed, "and take my arm.
"I think she intends to drive you off. Or shame you."
"Then she does not know the honor of the Riddermark. I have bound my heart to you, and I shall not leave you, so long as your love is turned toward me."
They tried to make their way back to Éomer's side, but the press of people was even greater. Again, they were separated by well-wishers, and Éowyn was again forced to go in search of her betrothed. This time, she was the first to his side, and came face to face with Galenriel. Curtsying low, Éowyn said "I am afraid I shall have to steal him away again, for he is sworn mine now."
"But I wished him to meet ..."
"Fare thee well, dear aunt," Éowyn interrupted and marched off with Faramir's hand firmly clasping hers.
"Thank you!" he whispered, and kissed her cheek.
They joined the circle surrounding Éomer, and Éowyn almost laughed aloud. There were a dozen of the finest ladies of Gondor's court, hanging on his words though he spoke but little. Éowyn felt as though she were scattering a flock of crows when she said "Come, brother, find me a glass of wine. It is too close in this hall for my liking."
Éomer drew near to her and Faramir. "Thank you, sister. After this last hour, I shall ever pity the cow brought to market!"
"And I the hunted roe!" Faramir answered, and he told Éomer of Galenriel's scheming. Lothíriel joined them then, and Faramir introduced her to Éomer. "If the air is too close, there is a balcony yonder."
"That would be most welcome!" Éowyn answered and they wound their way to the free air. The sun was setting and the day's heat ebbing, and soon the King and Queen would begin the feast. Still, Éowyn wished for a glass of wine.
"I am not going in there alone!" Éomer exclaimed.
"Nor I," answered Faramir when Éowyn looked to him.
"Perhaps two valiant knights could together brave such a melee?" Lothíriel teased.
Faramir kissed Éowyn's hand. "Whatever may pass, know that I love you!"
"Go!" Éowyn laughed, and kissed him on the cheek.
As Éowyn and Lothíriel waited, they spoke of the Pelannor's healing, and the many townlands that were again peopled and flourishing. A year and a season had passed since the overthrow of the Enemy, but the only sign of the great battle fought there were the great wrecks of siege towers. They lay scattered about the plain, held in reserve for firewood. But when a quarter of an hour had come and gone and the men had not returned, Éowyn began to grow impatient.
"Think you that they are lost?" Lothíriel asked.
"'Tis more likely they were found, by Emrahiel or Galenriel."
"Éowyn, I was twelve when Faramir was king of the Harvest Ball. I tormented him about it for years, and let me assure you, he has no desire toward Emrahiel. You have naught to fear from her."
"Perhaps not. But it is a matter of honor, now, Lothíriel. Will you wait for him here?"
"If you are going to confront Emrahiel, I would pay good silver to see it."
Éowyn laughed grimly, then plunged into the hall. It was only a moment before she found Emrahiel with her hand on Faramir's arm. Striding forward, she pulled a glove free from her hand and held it out to her rival.
"The weave is very poor," Emrahiel said condescendingly, "I would not wear those gloves either."
"My gauntlet or withdraw."
Emrahiel laughed and leaned into Faramir. "You never told me she has a sense of humor!"
Faramir looked on Emrahiel with pity. "She does not."
"My glove or withdraw," Éowyn repeated. She could feel the eyes of many upon her, but she had tolerated this too long. Tongues would wag after tonight, will or nil, but at least the word would be that her love was true.
"And what would be the weapon of choice for a high lady of Rohan such as yourself?" Emrahiel asked. "Rolling pin or washing paddle?"
"I am in deadly earnest. My glove or withdraw your claim on him."
"Do you not know a jest when you see it, you ignorant little girl? Faramir and I are old friends, and if he should choose my company over yours, it is not to be wondered at! Deadly earnest indeed!"
Éowyn noted, as did all others within hearing, that Emrahiel gave Faramir no title. "My glove or withdraw."
Anger marred Emrahiel's fair face. "Have you sunk so low, Faramir, that you would let the woman you once loved fight for her own honor? Have you nothing to say to this?"
"I do." He drew a deep breath and steadily met Emrahiel's gaze. "The honor of the Lady Éowyn is her own, and she needs naught from me. But should she desire it, I would gladly be her champion or her second."
Emrahiel looked at Faramir as though seeing him for the first time, then turned and fled without a word.
"That was poorly done," Faramir mused, watching her bob through the crowd. "If Lady Galenriel was aught but my aunt, I would repay her dearly for tormenting poor Emrahiel so."
"Do you prefer her company then?" Éowyn said coldly.
Faramir turned and smiled on her. "No! I would spend a lifetime with you rather than spend another minute with Emrahiel. But even so, Galenriel has spitefully used her, and the lass shall long feel the sting of it. I gave her no reason to hope for love from me, and she has not spoken to me until I returned from Rohan these six months past. Then she hinted that another had told her of my love for her, but I doubted it was more than an attempt to gain my attentions. Now I suspect that Galenriel has been laying a snare for you all this time."
"To stir you to anger, either toward me or to a shameful act. But you have acted with honor." Faramir took Éowyn's bare hand and kissed it gently. "White Lady, what mighty deed of laud and glory did I do to win your hand?"
Éowyn's anger melted. "You loved me. Even when I did not." Then linking her arm in his, she accepted the cup of wine he held and they walked back to the balcony. "But I marvel that you should choose me, the jealous lady all in green. I have set tongues wagging, and you are bound to hear of this night again."
"That is the very reason I loved you, Éowyn. You are fearless in all things and follow your heart with that same courage. What can be said save that you love me truly and that I am yours by right of conquest?" At that she laughed, but he stopped her with a kiss. "I would not be bound to a woman I did not admire."
They had almost gained the balcony when a trumpet sounded and King Elessar and Queen Arwen entered the hall. The guests made their way to the tables and the feast began. Éomer and Éowyn sat at the King's and Queen's left hand and Faramir and Lothíriel on the right. As the feast drew to a close, King Elessar stood and silence fell over the room. He raised his goblet and all the company did likewise. "To Faramir son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, Prince of Ithilien, and soon to be married man." A few chuckled. "Hail!" the King exclaimed, and the hall boomed as they all cried hail and drained their cups.
Then Arwen arose and Aragorn took his seat again. She held aloft a wreath made of twining white roses. "This crown was made for me by my mother's mother, Galadriel the White Lady of Lothlorien, for my wedding day one year past. Twined, as two lives will soon be twined, white for their love is pure despite the thorns of life, and blooming evergreen. Today, I crown you, Éowyn Wraithbane, Eomund's daugher, Shieldmaiden of Rohan, White Lady of Ithilien, Princess of Gondor, and soon to be married woman." Arwen stood behind Éowyn and placed the rose-crown on her head. "Hail!"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.